A fun friendly for the Sharks against a decent Esher side, with lots of changes of positions, and three separate games of 20 minutes each. Fairly evenly matched throughout with the Sharks making some drastic changes, but playing some great football and everyone excelling in some unfamiliar roles.
With Esher bringing their full 12-man squad and the Sharks having our full 10 and three mini games planned, it was an ideal opportunity to mix things up a little and give the boys a chance to play different roles within the team.
The first match was as you were, though, with the boys mostly taking their usual positions: Rory in goal, Phin, Alejandro and Martin at the back, Ben and Wiktor in the middle and Nile upfront. The Sharks continued their good form of late with some great commitment and excellent passing. Francis, Jakub and Gabriel came on for the front three and the good work continued. But Esher are a useful side, who pass the ball well and they had one of two very energetic players. They took the lead with a good move down the left and a cross that was turned home well. Despite creating chances themselves, the Sharks couldn’t score and the 20 minutes was soon over.
Unfortunately Francis suffered a relapse of the hamstring injury he picked up last week and couldn’t continue on the pitch for the other two games. He volunteered to go in goal for the next match and Rory went to right back with Martin centre back and Phin left back. Jakub took his place as striker with Wiktor and Ben behind.
Despite the changes, the Sharks were excellent in this match. Rory was great in the full back role and contributed to the attacks as well as defending stoutly. They all defended doggedly and heroically – somehow keeping the ball out a number of times when a goal for Esher seemed certain. Francis pulled off a number of terrific saves.
At the other end, the Sharks were looking fantastic. Ben, Wiktor and Jakub were playing superbly interlinking and exchanging passes beautifully. They took the lead with a well worked goal, after Ben had sent Jakub away on the left. He beat his man, crossed it to Wiktor who ran in and slotted it home. A very good goal.
It was a real end-to-end game though and Esher were creating their own chances, eventually scoring and then taking the lead after some good passing and full back play.
But the Sharks kept at it and eventually got their reward. Ben (who was back to his best after his subdued performance last week) surged through the Esher defence and was brought down by a clumsy challenge for a penalty. He picked himself and took the kick. Although the Esher keeper got to the ball well, it sneaked under his body and just crossed the line for an equalizer.
The entertainment continued as the time ticked away. Both sides were playing good football and threatening to score. But it was the Sharks who made the breakthrough to win the match. Wiktor picked the ball up in the centre circle, looked up and played a superb through ball to Jakub in the Esher half. With the keeper rushing out, Jakub kept his cool and poked the ball past him into the empty net. 3-2 to the Sharks and a well deserved win.
The final mini-match saw some really big chances with Ben, Nile and Gabriel coming into defence, and Phin, Martin and Alejandro moving into midfield.
And the Sharks played well again. Ben seemed to enjoy his spell at the back and he was determined and committed in the tackles and the challenges. Nile and Gabriel contributed well in the central and wide areas and the three usual defenders revelled in their new found freedom further forward.
But Esher showed their quality to score two good goals. The first was an excellent individual effort from their marauding right back. He picked the ball up in his own half and dashed down the wing beating three Sharks with great skill and pace. He played a 1-2 with the striker and crashed the ball into the net. A really fine goal.
The Sharks started to come back into it, but it was a little too late, and they couldn’t make their chances pay.
Just one league to come now – home to Waddon, the unbeaten leaders of the division. If they play to their best the Sharks could certainly give them a real run for their money.
Such bad luck for poor Alejandro who has broken his collar bone at school and will be out of action for 6 weeks. He was really looking forward to the game apparently, so perhaps his teammates can get a win for him on Sunday. We wish him all the best for a speedy recovery.
Thanks to Kasia for the great pics. Superb as usual.